The Chiefs brought the world’s best quarterback to Frankfurt, Germany, for the first time, and his defense stole the show.
The Chiefs are bringing a win back to the States, not because Mahomes and Travis Kelce balled out but because the defense shut down the league’s best.
It left the game more closely resembling a typical game sent to Europe rather than one with a couple of high-powered offenses.
It didn’t spoil the environment — a pro-heavy Chiefs crowd, though one that was more consistently animated regardless of a play’s outcome, remained lively throughout.
1. If not for the defense...
We’re all out of unproven tests for the defense.
The defense, not the offense, was asked to win Sunday, and that’s actually where it felt most comfortable. It has started to carry a team that sits atop the AFC West.
The Dolphins were averaging 33.9 point per game. The Chiefs held them to 14.
The Dolphins were posting 453.3 yards per game. They gained 292.
The Dolphins were averaging 7.3 yards per play. They finished at 5.0. Their worst output of the season was 5.1.
Oh, and then there was this:
2. That touchdown play
About 15 minutes before kickoff Sunday, a pre-game montage informed German fans they’d be seeing some touchdowns.
Probably didn’t expect one like this, though.
The Chiefs had a game plan to keep the ball out of Tyreek Hill’s hands, but Chiefs cornerback Trent McDuffie did one better: He straight stole it out of his hands.
McDuffie forced a fumble on a wide receiver swing pass to Hill. Mike Edwards picked it up. And with Hill trying to now make a tackle, Edwards turned and pitched it to a waiting Bryan Cook, whose speed took over. Cook ran the remaining 59 yards for a touchdown.
For a team that’s had a lot of enjoyable moments over the last half-decade, this is certainly one of the more memorable regular season plays — and the fact that it started with a Tyreek Hill fumble only amplifies it.
McDuffie, you might recall, is in a roundabout way part of the return for the Hill trade two years ago.
What more could you ask for?
3. The offensive funk is alive and well
We could focus on short yardage, because that’s the offensive failure that prevented the Chiefs from closing out the game.
But, frankly, that would be overlooking how bad it was for the entire second half (and then some).
The Chiefs gained 48 yards on four second-half drives — that’s over 20 plays.
The Dolphins threw all of their attention at Travis Kelce, who had only three catches for 14 yards in the game, and the Chiefs receivers were negated by a suddenly-healthy Miami cornerback duo.
This is a new storyline to 2023, but its’ certainly not a new one within 2023. And the more we see it, the more you have to wonder if, not when, it will turn.
4. The Chris Jones mistake
There’s one word for it, and it’s probably the same word you used when you saw it live.
Chris Jones single-handedly gave the Dolphins four points (at least) with a late shove against a Dolphins lineman, which you can only assume was an outlet for frustration of a game in which he was quiet.
The Dolphins were set to trot out the field-goal team, but the penalty instead offered a fresh set of downs, and one play later, Miami’s Raheem Mostert ran for a 13-yard touchdown. A potential three points became seven.
Jones got an earful from defensive-line coach Joe Cullen on the sideline after the touchdown.
Quite simply, it just can’t happen.
5. The key catch of the first half
Patrick Mahomes completed 14 passes in the first half, exactly half of which gained at least 10 yards.
They key one?
None of those.
Facing third-and-5 from their own 10-yard line, Mahomes whipped an out route to Rashee Rice, who made a diving catch.
It gained 6.
The Chiefs would ultimately gain 95 for a touchdown drive that provided a 14-0 lead, but more importantly it provided a change the rhythm of the offense. The Chiefs were on the verge of a fourth consecutive punt before Rice’s catch altered that blueprint.
Rice also had the initial touchdown catch, an 11-yard reception that he caught behind the line of scrimmage and did what he does best — dare someone to attempt to get in his path.